[JURIST] The North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission [official website] on Wednesday overturned a man's 1993 murder conviction in its first exoneration of an inmate who claimed to have been wrongly convicted. George Taylor, who had served 17 years of a life sentence and had exhausted all other appeals options, became the first person to be exonerated [Charlotte Observer report] under the commission since the commission's creation in 2006 [text, PDF]. To receive commission review, inmates with new evidence not previously considered in court can bring their innocence claims to an eight-member panel, consisting of judges, attorneys, a sheriff, a victim's advocate, and a member of the public. If five or more commission members consider the evidence to be a potential consideration for innocence, the case will then go to a panel of three North Carolina Superior Court [official website] judges, who must deliver a unanimous decision to overturn a conviction. The appointed commission judges found that faulty evidence and unreliable witnesses [Boston Herald report] were used to wrongfully convict Taylor at trial.
The commission, the first and only program of its kind in the US, was signed into law [JURIST report] in August 2006 and has received more than 600 claims of innocence. Its creation was prompted based on wrongful convictions in several high-profile cases in North Carolina, including Darryl Hunt, who was found innocent of murder based on DNA evidence after serving 18 years in jail, and Alan Gell [advocacy websites], who was released from death row based on evidence that prosecutors purposefully withheld in his trial. The commission is modeled after the UK's Criminal Cases Review Commission [official website].